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Eighteen Sonnets About Jesus
by [?]


If Thou hadst been a Poet! On my heart
The thought dashed. It recoiled, as, with the gift,
Light-blinded, and joy-saddened, so bereft.
And the hot fountain-tears, with sudden start,
Thronged to mine eyes, as if with that same smart
The husk of vision had in twain been cleft,
Its hidden soul in naked beauty left,
And we beheld thee, Nature, as thou art.
O Poet, Poet, Poet! at thy feet
I should have lien, sainted with listening;
My pulses answering aye, in rhythmic beat,
Each parting word that with melodious wing
Moved on, creating still my being sweet;
My soul thy harp, thy word the quivering string.


Thou wouldst have led us through the twilight land
Where spirit shows by form, form is refined
Away to spirit by transfiguring mind,
Till they are one, and in the morn we stand;
Treading thy footsteps, children, hand in hand,
With sense divinely growing, till, combined,
We heard the music of the planets wind
In harmony with billows on the strand;
Till, one with Earth and all God’s utterance,
We hardly knew whether the sun outspake,
Or a glad sunshine from our spirits brake;
Whether we think, or windy leaflets dance:
Alas, O Poet Leader! for this good,
Thou wert God’s tragedy, writ in tears and blood.


So if Thou hadst been scorned in human eyes,
Too bright and near to be a glory then;
If as Truth’s artist, Thou hadst been to men
A setter forth of strange divinities;
To after times, Thou, born in midday skies,
A sun, high up, out-blazing sudden, when
Its light had had its centuries eight and ten
To travel through the wretched void that lies
‘Twixt souls and truth, hadst been a Love and Fear,
Worshipped on high from Magian’s mountain-crest,
And all night long symbol’d by lamp-flames clear;
Thy sign, a star upon thy people’s breast,
Where now a strange mysterious shape doth lie,
That once barred out the sun in noontide sky.


But as Thou earnest forth to bring the Poor,
Whose hearts were nearer faith and verity,
Spiritual childhood, thy philosophy,–
So taught’st the A, B, C of heavenly lore;
Because Thou sat’st not, lonely evermore,
With mighty thoughts informing language high;
But, walking in thy poem continually,
Didst utter acts, of all true forms the core;
Instead of parchment, writing on the soul
High thoughts and aspirations, being so
Thine own ideal; Poet and Poem, lo!
One indivisible; Thou didst reach thy goal
Triumphant, but with little of acclaim,
Even from thine own, escaping not their blame.


The eye was shut in men; the hearing ear
Dull unto deafness; nought but earthly things
Had credence; and no highest art that flings
A spirit radiance from it, like the spear
Of the ice-pointed mountain, lifted clear
In the nigh sunrise, had made skyey springs
Of light in the clouds of dull imaginings:
Vain were the painter or the sculptor here.
Give man the listening heart, the seeing eye;
Give life; let sea-derived fountain well,
Within his spirit, infant waves, to tell
Of the far ocean-mysteries that lie
Silent upon the horizon,–evermore
Falling in voices on the human shore.


So highest poets, painters, owe to Thee
Their being and disciples; none were there,
Hadst Thou not been; Thou art the centre where
The Truth did find an infinite form; and she
Left not the earth again, but made it be
One of her robing rooms, where she doth wear
All forms of revelation. Artists bear
Tapers in acolyte humility.
O Poet! Painter! soul of all! thy art
Went forth in making artists. Pictures? No;
But painters, who in love should ever show
To earnest men glad secrets from God’s heart.
So, in the desert, grass and wild flowers start,
When through the sand the living waters go.